ASHLAND - Expansion plans are shaping up for The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center.
By the end of the year, Kroc Center leaders hope to break ground on the approximately 20,000 square foot addition, which will include an indoor water park, a fitness room, locker rooms, multipurpose rooms and lounge space, as well as additional parking.
The $7.2 million project is about halfway through the construction document phase and will be put out for bids Sept. 23.
Capt. Annalise Francis said six companies from the Ashland area and elsewhere in northeast Ohio have been invited to bid, and five of them have confirmed their intent to bid on the project.
Francis anticipates construction will take about a year, but the project's timeline will be dependent on factors outside the Kroc Center's control, including the local permitting process and the Salvation Army's extensive internal review process.
The project was announced in February and preliminary design plans were revealed in April. Since then, Francis said, Kroc Center leaders have modified the plan to reduce costs and stay within budget.
The new plan reduces the the number of corridors leading to the new portion of the building from two to one. It also calls for updating the center's existing concession stand rather than adding a new one.
One thing that has been added to the plan is an outdoor patio space. The Kroc Center's existing picnic pavillion will be relocated to be adjacent to the new patio.
As the project moves forward, Francis and development director Brandon Wells sat down with Ashland Source to answer a few of community members' most common questions about the project.
Where is the $7.2 million coming from?
The money is a gift from The Salvation Army Eastern Territorial Headquarters in New York. In 2016, Salvation Army leadership came to communities that already had Kroc Centers and asked them to provide proposals for capital improvements. The Ashland Kroc Center was the smallest of the centers considered and ended up being awarded the largest gift.
Why did Kroc Center leaders choose to spend the money on a waterpark?
Wells and Francis said some community members have the misconception that Kroc Center leaders had a lot of options in determining what to do with the money. In reality, the gift was strictly designated for community recreation purposes. It was not allowed to be put toward the the church or the social service programs the center provides.
Additionally, projects had to be self-sustainable. While the Kroc Center will not seek to profit off of the waterpark and fitness facility, the organization will charge admission fees to cover the cost of the facility's operation.
What will it cost for my family to use the waterpark and fitness area?
Kroc Center leaders plan to sell annual memberships as well as day passes and/or multi-day booklets, but a fee structure has not yet been determined. The fee structure will be designed to cover the costs of operating the new facility while still being affordable, Francis said. Scholarships will be available for families who cannot afford admission.
What kinds of water features will be included in the new waterpark?
One of the water toys will depict RJ, the Kroc Mascot, shooting water out of an innertube. There will be a tube slide as well as a current channel (also known as a lazy river), possibly with a dump bucket or some sprayers. In the active area, there will be a triple basketball hoop. In the shallow area, there will be large mushrooms that spray water.
Kroc Center leaders also hope to add a body slide, which could be attached to the same infrastructure as the tube slide, as well as a tot play structure with a slide and other water features for small children. Because the rising cost of steel has impacted the estimated cost of water features, funding for those additions is not included in the project at this time. Kroc Center leaders plan to seek help from foundations and private donors to add those features.
What will happen to the existing outdoor spray park?
Kroc Center leaders hope and plan to relocate the spray park to the area behind the new addition, but they need an estimated $400,000 to do so. They plan to set up the plumbing infrastructure to make the future spray park site ready for whenever the funds are available to relocate the existing fixtures. Depending whether contingency money is left over and whether the Kroc Center receives funding from foundations or private donors, the spray park relocation could be completed as part of the construction project, or it could be done later.
What about the Kroc Center's social service programs?
The Kroc Center will continue to offer free community meals and a food pantry as well as life skills and community education. Free services will remain untouched and could even be increased as a result of the Kroc Center's expansion, Francis said.
Francis explained the Kroc Center's mission as threefold-- spiritual, service and social. All three prongs of the Salvation Army are designed to strengthen families, she said.
Is the Kroc Center competing with the Ashland YMCA?
Francis and Wells said their intent is not to create competition between the Kroc and the Y. Rather, they said they planned the new facility to be purely recreational and worked to avoid duplication in the design. For example, the waterpark will not have a lap pool or competitive swimming area. Kroc Center leaders say they believe both places can continue to fill separate niches in the community.